Wednesday, 18 December 2019

President Bok, former President Rudenstine,

President Bok, former President Rudenstine




 incoming President Faust, members

of the HarvardCorporation and the Board of Overseers, members of the faculty,

parents, and especially, thegraduates:I’ve been waiting more than 30 years to

say this: “Dad, I always told you I’dcome back and get my degree.”I want to

thank Harvard for this timely honor.I’ll be changing my job next year … and it

will be nice to finally have a collegedegree on my resume.I applaud the

graduates today for taking a much more direct route to your degrees.For my

part, I’m just happy that the Crimson has called me “Harvard’s most

successfuldropout.”I guess that makes me valedictorian of my own special class

… I did the best of everyonewho failed.But I also want to be recognized as the

guy who got Steve Ballmer to drop out of businessschool.I’m a bad

influence.That’s why I was invited to speak at your graduation.If I had spoken

at your orientation, fewer of you might be here today.Harvard was just a

phenomenal experience for me.Academic life was fascinating.I used to sit in on

lots of classes I hadn’t even signed up for.And dorm life was terrific.I lived

up at Radcliffe, in Currier House.There were always lots of people in my dorm

room late at night discussing things, becauseeveryone knew I didn’t worry

about getting up in the morning.That’s how I came to be the leader of the

anti-social group.We clung to each other as a way of validating our rejection

of all those social people.Bill Gates addresses the Harvard Alumni Association

in Tecentenary Theater at Harvard University’s2007 Commencement Afternoon

Exercises.Radcliffe was a great place to live.There were more women up there,

and most of the guys were science-math types.That combination offered me the

best odds, if you know what I mean.This is where I learned the sad lesson that

improving your odds doesn’t guarantee success.One of my biggest memories of

Harvard came in January 1975, when I made a call from CurrierHouse to acompany

in Albuquerque that had begun making the world’s first personal computers.I

offered to sell them software.I worried that they would realize I was just a

student in a dorm and hang up on me.Instead they said: “We’re not quite ready,

come see us in a month,” which was a goodthing, because we hadn’t written the

software yet.From that moment, I worked day and night on this little extra

credit project that markedthe end of my college education and the beginning of

a remarkable journey with Microsoft.What I remember above all about Harvard

was being in the midst of so much energy and intelligence.It could be

exhilarating, intimidating, sometimes even discouraging, but always

challenging.It was an amazing privilege – and though I left early, I was

transformed by my yearsat Harvard, the friendships I made, and the ideas I

worked on.But taking a serious look back … I do have one big regret.I left

Harvard with no real awareness of the awful inequities in the world – the

appallingdisparities of health, and wealth, and opportunity that condemn

millions of people to lives ofdespair.I learned a lot here at Harvard about

new ideas in economics and politics.I got great exposure to the advances being


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